Harare Mayor Manyenyeni Challenges Fresh Suspension

By Professor Matodzi

Harare, June 12, 2016 –TORMENTED Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni has dragged Saviour Kasukuwere, the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister to court seeking an order to stop him from abusing his powers by suspending him “in installments” from his job.

On Tuesday, Kasukuwere suspended Manyenyeni from serving as Harare Mayor, just a day after he returned to resume duty after he was dismissed on 20 April for allegedly refusing to implement the Minister’s directives.

Upon suspension in April, the Zanu PF political commissar accused him of acting unlawfully through appointing former National Merchant Bank boss James Mushore to the position of Harare Town Clerk.

Manyenyeni only resumed his duties on Tuesday after Kasukuwere failed to cause a thorough investigation to be conducted within 45 days as envisaged by Section 114 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15) as had been ordered by High Court Judge Justice Mary-Zimba Dube, when the Mayor’s lawyers first challenged his suspension in April. 

But on Wednesday, Kasukuwere, through then acting local government minister Jonathan Moyo, issued Manyenyeni with a fresh letter of suspension, citing some grounds of misconduct purportedly committed in 2015.

This compelled his lawyers Bellinda Chinowawa and Dzimbabwe Chimbga of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to file an urgent chamber application in the High Court on Friday challenging the latest suspension of Manyenyeni.

Chinowawa and Chimbga argued that Kasukuwere’s actions were unlawful as he is not permitted by Section 114 of the Urban Councils Act, as read with Section 278 of the Constitution, to re-suspend a Mayor whose suspension has lapsed by operation of law, in circumstances where the grounds for the re-suspension are based on facts which were known to the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister at the time of the first suspension.

The human rights lawyers charged that Kasukuwere could not split facts and suspend Manyenyeni in installments as doing so amounts to abuse of process.

In any event, and more fundamentally, the 1st Respondent (Kasukuwere) is not permitted by section 114, as read with section 278 of the Constitution, to re-suspend a mayor whose suspension has lapsed by operation of law, in circumstances where the grounds for the re-suspension are based on facts which were known to the 1st Respondent at the time of the first suspension.

“The Minister cannot split facts and suspend in instalments. In casu, the allegations contained in the 1st Respondent’s new letter relate to matters of 2015 that were common cause between the parties,” reads part of Manyenyeni’s affidavit attached to the urgent chamber application.

“There can be no general suspension. In the first letter of suspension, a specific ground was mentioned. The failure to mention a specific ground is not permitted by section 114 as read with section 278 of the Constitution.

“That failure is fatal and renders the suspension null and void. Alternatively, the second suspension is exactly on the same ground as the previous suspension. This is because the only permissible grounds for suspension are now those in section 278. Different facts of allegations do not constitute new grounds. They merely constitute what lawyers prefer to call ‘particulars’.

“In the first suspension, the grounds, although not stated, were either 278 (2) (b) or 278(2)(c). These are still the same grounds herein. This is not permitted by law,” Manyenyeni added.

Manyenyeni, through his lawyers, wants the High Court to issue an order setting aside the letter of re-suspension of Councillor Manyenyeni and for him to be allowed to continue to carry out council business and receive his allowances in line with his post of Mayor.

Apart from Manyenyeni, Kasukuwere has also targeted suspending Gweru Mayor Hamutendi Kombayi and it only took the intervention of ZLHR to challenge his suspension, which was set aside early this year by High Court Judge Justice Francis Bere.

 

Critics accuse President Robert Mugabe’s government of seeking to decimate MDC-T party dominated urban councils through harassment and suspension of their democratically elected Mayors and councilors in towns and cities where the opposition party enjoys massive support.